Paul Pierce wasn't playing like someone who was about to pass Larry Bird as No. 2 on the Boston Celtics' all-time scoring list. He entered Tuesday night's game against the Charlotte Bobcats needing just 10 points to reach the milestone, but had just seven at halftime.
“I'm not going to lie. It was hanging over my head too much,” Pierce said. “You kind of just felt it. It was hard to really ignore it and just focus on the game.”
Relief came in the form a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 10:23 mark of the third quarter, lifting Pierce past Bird's career tally of 21,791 to become the second all-time scorer in the history of the storied franchise. Pierce received a standing ovation from the Boston crowd, with the applause lasting for several minutes as teammate Kevin Garnett waved the crowd on for more.
“It was a relief. So much was hanging over me the last couple of days. Just hearing about it and knowing that you've got a game to play,” Pierce said. “Just to be mentioned with [Bird], with this organization, is a great honor.”
Pierce has spent all 14 years of his NBA career with the Celtics, enduring losing seasons in six of his first nine years with the team before winning the league championship in 2008. He was named the MVP of the NBA Finals that year.
“Paul had a chance to leave us when we were bad and instead of moaning that he wanted to go to a championship team, he stayed,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “And he said, `I simply want to be a Celtic and I trust that we're going to win a title someday.'"
Pierce finished with 15 points in the Celtics' 94-84 victory over the Bobcats, giving him 21,797 career points. He still has a long way to go before passing John Havlicek's all-time team record of 26,395 points ... and that's just fine with Pierce.
“I think the fans would really appreciate another championship more than me passing Hondo,” he said.
-- Chuck Schilken
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Paul Pierce is hugged by Kevin Garnett after becoming the No. 2 all-time Celtics scorer. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press